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Agricultural use changes could be coming to township

Published March 29. 2010 05:00PM

Agricultural use changes could be in store for a Lower Towamensing Township zoning ordinance.

The township's board of superiors will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. April 13, at which time they'll consider amendments to their zoning ordinance.

If approved, the words "intensive agricultural activities are prohibited" that appear in several sections of the ordinance would be deleted, and the words "intensive agricultural activities are prohibited except to the extent that this prohibition is preempted by state law" would be added.

Also, the regulation of manure storage would be revised so that all manure storage facilities will be set back a minimum of 100 feet and a maximum of 300 feet from any lot line as applicable under a state law.

Reached this morning, township solicitor Jim Nanovic told the TIMES NEWS the township plans to consider the amendments in response to a complaint that says the current ordinance violates the Pennsylvania Nutrient Management Act.

"Someone had contacted the attorney general's office, the attorney general's office contacted us, and said someone said the zoning ordinance violates the Nutrient Management Act," Nanovic said. "We said ' we don't think it does', and are willing to make an amendment to the ordinance."

This isn't the first time the township's zoning ordinance has come into question when it relates to agricultural uses.

In 2008, a judge from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the township zoning ordinance did not violate the state Nutrient Management Act after the township received various complaints with regard to the long-term stockpiling of a large quantity of sewage sludge on a farming operation at 1535 Lower Smith Gap Road, Kunkletown.

At that time, Barbara A. Walck and Edgar F. Lorah Jr., asserted that the township's zoning hearing board erred in its attempt to uphold an enforcement notice issued by the township's zoning officer that required them to cease the stockpiling of the sludge on their property.

Located in the township's R-1 Low Density Residential Zoning District, the property was owned by Walk, which Lorah leased from Walk as part of his farming operation.

Nanovic noted that the township was successful in that particular case.

"We prevailed in court, and the ordinance was not in violation," he said. "We think what we did then, we can do with these changes."

A copy of the full text of the proposed ordinance is available for public review at the township Municipal Building, 595 Hahn's Dairy Road, Monday through Friday during regular business hours.

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